Although the top ranked music school will, of course, result in heated debate, I consider the IU Jacobs School of Music to be among the most impressive, diverse, and extraordinary music schools in the world, especially for vocal performance, music composition, percussion performance, orchestral conducting, and even music librarianship.
The performance opportunities at the Jacobs School are unparalleled with more than 1,100 performances a year, including seven fully staged operas. Most schools can only afford two! If you’re looking for a top-notch music school combined with the broad academic offerings of a major university, you need not look any further.
The availability of scholarships and fellowships to music students at Jacobs is astounding. The list (which you can find here) goes on and on for pages. Each year the schools provides students with an unbelievable $5 million dollars in merit-based funds.
The Jacobs School was established in 1921 and was known as the Indiana University School of Music until 2005. The conservatory is home to more the 1,600 students (half of whom are undergraduates). The ground work for the school was begun in 1907 by Charles Campbell, which eventually led to the establishment of the Jacobs School. In 1982, Leonard Bernstein spent six weeks at Jacobs to compose his final opera, A Quiet Place.
Moved by his time at Jacobs, the Bernstein family donated the entire contents of Leonard Bernstein’s conducting studio to the school, including his conducting stool from the Vienna Philharmonic said to have been used by Johannes Brahms!
Students at the Jacobs School of Music are given the opportunity to examine the contents of Bernstein’s studio and read through his books and music scores. Talk about inspiration! Who knows what standing in the room and taking in the desk Bernstein worked at and the pictures he hung on the wall will inspire in you?
Although you need to prove your musical skills to enter this exceptional school, the larger student body at Jacobs gives you a better chance from an acceptance rate perspective. According to the Jacobs’ website, they typical receive 1,600 applications for undergraduates and approximately a quarter are admitted; for graduates, the school typically receives 1,200 applications and approximately one third are admitted.
So the acceptance rate at Jacobs is 25% for undergraduates and slightly over 33% for graduates.
As with all applications to music school, keep in mind sometimes the numbers just don’t work to your advantage. For example, teachers can only take on a certain number of students for a given instrument each year. In these cases, musicians who apply for maxed-out studios are usually refunded their application fee and told no one who plays their instrument will be accepted that particular year.
Tuition & Fees
Because Jacobs is a state university, the tuition varies for Indiana residents and non-residents. For residents, the tuition is $6,174 for undergraduates and $602 per credit hour for graduate students (meaning a very full load of 18 credits will cost you $10,836). For non-residents, the tuition is $18,103 for undergraduates and $1,857 per credit hour for graduates (meaning 18 credits will cost you $33,426).
You can find a helpful breakdown of tuition costs on the Jacobs’ website.
Keep in mind the tuition at Jacobs is very reasonable, especially when you factor in the large amount of merit-based funds available. You can also apply for residency at Indiana University for fee-paying purposes to significantly reduce the tuition cost for non-residents. You can find a copy of the application here.
For those wishing to live on campus through student housing, the cost is $11,767 for both Indiana residents and non-residents.
Requirements and Admissions Tips
At Jacobs, pre-screening recordings are required for Audio Engineering and Sound Production (Recording Arts Degree) (requires a portfolio), Ballet, Composition (requires a portfolio), Flute, Classical Guitar, Jazz Guitar, Percussion, Jazz Percussion, Piano, Saxophone, Jazz Saxophone, Voice, Jazz Voice, and Violin.
By clicking on each degree above, you can find detailed information about the requirements for each department on the Jacobs’ website.
Please note: Jacobs requires students to submit ACT or SAT scores.
More advanced degrees at Jacobs have additional application requirements. You can find additional information for graduate student applications, international applicants, transfer students, and certificates at Jacobs here.
If you are invited to audition at Jacobs, you should become familiar with the requirements of each department as they all vary. For example, prospective Trumpet majors should demonstrate major scales up to 4 sharps and flats, covering two or more octaves and perform for 5-8 minutes of contrasting selections from your repertoire of solos, etudes, and/or excerpts.
If you are accepted to audition at Jacobs, I would recommend you schedule a lesson with a faculty member in the department you are interested in enrolling into at Jacobs prior to your audition. Knowing how a specific teacher works with you is critical for determining if a school is a good fit. Also, if they like you and your playing in your lesson together, your chance for getting in might be higher. Keep in mind this is only a recommendation and not a fact in every instance.
There are few places in the world you can visit without someone recognizing the Jacobs School of Music and their impressive list of alumni. Here a but a few …
Joshua Bell, celebrated violin soloist, chamber musician, recording artist, and conductor with more than 40 recorded CDs receiving Grammy, Mercury, Gramophone, and Echo Klassik Awards; David Baker, the late and great professor at Jacobs who made the jazz program one of the most respected in the United States (as a trombonist and later a cellist, Mr. Baker performed with the ensembles of Quincy Jones and George Russell); Angela Brown, the talented African-American soprano admired for her portrayals of Verdi heroines (at Jacobs she studied under the noted voice teacher Virginia Zeani, known as one of the greatest sopranos of the 20th century).
There are too many great Jacobs Alumni to discuss in full here. For a good list, check this Wikipedia page.
Jacobs has more the 170 full-time faculty members of international renown. Recently, the school added the classical pianist André Watts, one of the most celebrated classical musicians of the 20th century. Also in the piano department is Menahem Pressler, widely considered to be among the top pedagogues in piano pedagogy of the 20th century and 21st centuries.
In the voice department, we find some of the world’s most noted classical performers on the faculty, including the Grammy-award winning Sylvia McNair and famed baritone Timothy Noble. Nearly every area of study at IU has expert faculty that students can study with.
Similar Schools & Ranking
A school similar to Jacobs would be a large music school located within a university setting. IU’s main emphasis is in classical performance, composition, and in jazz, but also has strong programs in musical theatre and theory. My picks for schools similar to Jacobs in the US would be the University North Texas School of Music, the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music, and the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor School of Music, Theatre, and Dance.
At Music School Central, we rank Jacobs very highly. In a previous list published in 2014, we ranked the school number 1.
While all rankings are subjective, in our opinion Jacobs is a top-10 music school.
As noted, the scholarships and fellowships available at Jacobs is astounding with $5 million dollars in merit-based funds. You can find a complete list of funding opportunities at Jacobs here.
Any student applying to Jacobs should also apply for the FAFSA in order to maximize opportunities for receiving financial aid. Grants and loans from FAFSA can help pay for an acceptance to Jacobs.
Is Jacobs Right for Me?
Given our opinion here at Music School Central, Jacobs should be on every music student’s list. From the funding to the faculty to the performance opportunities, you’ll be given ample opportunities to grow as a musician at Jacobs.
There are, however, some considerations to take into account. While the school is located in a metropolitan area, it’s not New York City or Los Angeles. That said, Bloomington is progressive, hip, and offers plenty of great places to eat and drink after long hours of study and practice. To find out if Jacobs is right for you, a trip to the school and surrounding area should be on your list before making a decision.
The music curriculum alone at Jacobs is impressive and intensive and also includes 31 credits of Common Education Requirements such as English Composition, Mathematical Modeling, the Humanities and Sciences, and World Language and Cultures; as a result, Jacobs provides you with a solid focus on music combined with the academic fundamentals needed to succeed in the professional world.
For the Jacobs School of Music as well as many other schools, the application process can be confusing and difficult to navigate. There are many parts to understanding how to truly and successfully succeed in the audition process.
If you are interested in attending college for music, and you would like to receive high level assistance in how to audition, interview, and master the college application for Jacobs or any other music school, check out Music School Central’s College Counseling Program.